Todd and the Book of Pure Evil
Premieres: Wednesday September 29th, at 9pm ET/PT on SPACE

Okay, I’ll say it now, and upfront. I do not like horror.

Yup, that’s right. The girl who was once in a zombie flick. The girl who adores scifi and fantasy. The girl who cheers on Legolas as he stabs orcs and fantasizes about Eric Northman, and grew up idolizing Lestat.

The girl who laughs at horror-fan friends who get queasy around real life blood while on her way to fetching the first aid kit. The girl who sat up and watched the doctor stick a giant needle into her knee to drain it after it swelled to the approximate size (and colour pattern) of a soccer ball after being hit by a car, while her ‘adult’ accompaniment cowered and whimpered into her shoulder. The girl who opened her novel with a guy jamming his fist into a sucking chest wound.

That girl. And she doesn’t like horror movies.

I close my eyes when it’s clear somebody’s head is about to pop off, when the assassin squeezes the trigger, when the monster appears in silhouette behind the next victim. It’s less the actual visuals that put me off, but what they represent – I don’t like the idea that there are people out there that would actually do these things to other people. “13 Ghosts” was by far the worst: when the Uncle revealed that he had set his own niece on fire just to create one more ghost, I calmly got up out of my theatre seat, walked to the bathroom, and vomited. Popcorn is no fun going the other way.

So, I’ll admit that I came to Todd and the Book of Pure Evil with no small amount of trepidation. It was made worse by the fact that in the morning, when my press kit had arrived at home, I was tearing into the packaging as my kettle boiled. Pre-caffeine JM is a jumpy, fuzzy-brained creature. When the plastic severed finger dropped out of the press kit, I screamed loud enough that my neighbors gave me a dirty glare when they left later.

Oh god, what was I getting myself into?

Even walking into the room for the screening was a test; the show props were scattered on a table that I had to pass before I could get to my seat – a skin-covered grimoire, a skeleton shirt cobwebbed with desiccated flesh that still glistened, a creepy imp thingy that looked way too real. All the shorthairs on the back of my neck stood up and demanded that they wanted to leave.
And it was creepy, and I did close my eyes (a testament to the power of the SFX by David Scott and the production quality of the show), and I was freaked out (bravo, director-writers Craig David Wallace and Anthony Leo).

But I was also laughing.

The great thing about Todd and the Book of Pure Evil was that, halfway through the first scene of the first episode, I had forgotten it was horror.
Oh sure, there was blood and demons and (because Jason Mews is in it) the inevitable sex and drugs that find their way into stuff set in high schools that was written by adult men who wished their own high school experience had been a bit more hardcore.

But thing is… it was funny.

Like Buffy, I was enjoying the story too much to remember that I didn’t like the genre. Also like Buffy, instead of trying to navigate the waters of horror-film cliche, Todd dives right in and uses the tropes to its advantage, often times pointing straight at them with a neon light arrow and screaming “Watch what we do with this! You won’t expect it and it will be cool!”, which makes the series all the more clever.

 Todd Smith (Alex House) is an engaging, detestable coward that I look forward to watching grow, and his romantic interest Jenny (Maggie Castle) is both hot and smart, which is rare enough that I could appreciate her. Hannah, the school’s looser smarty pants, reminds me a lot of myself in high school, so I inevitably felt for her (though I’m not sure I ever cleaned up as well as actress Melanie Leishman), and while I find the best-friend character Curtis (Bill Turnbill) really annoying, it’s only because I’m meant to.

I adored Chris Leavins in Traders, so it’s great to see him back as the stuffy guidance councilor who isn’t sure if he’s playing for Todd’s team, or the Satanists’ who ordered him to find the book.

And after the viewing was over, I realized something else – this show made me watch horror and like it, but better than that, it did what I’ve always wanted horror films to do: it talked about the sort of people who would do something ‘like that’, and then dealt with the repercussions.

I will definitely be tuning in to catch the rest of the series.

Erm… With the lights on.

JM FreyReview: Todd and the Book Of Pure Evil